The High-Tech Trucker

Motorola Razr

Jealous of other truckers’ sleek cell phones? Want broadband Internet where you are? Tired of having highway and truck stop noise intrude on conversations and downtime? Could be time to raid your equipment fund – though with six of these gadgets under $100, you can upgrade your digital image, not to mention your quality of life on the road, without breaking the bank. Here are Overdrive’s picks of some of the latest and often overlooked electronics that will keep any techie trucker on the cutting edge.

The larger your SUV, the smaller your cell phone – or so the adage goes. Since your rig far outsizes your neighbors’ four-wheelers, you deserve a Motorola Razr. The thinnest phone on the market features aircraft-grade aluminum and a chemically etched keypad. The Razr’s integrated speaker phone, color displays, video playback, integrated camera, Bluetooth wireless, MP3 ring tunes and downloadable Java games should entertain you. And figuring out how it’s crammed into a 13.9 mm by 53 mm case will stump you. $199 (with a two-year service plan from Cingular).

If you’re the kind of trucker who wants a constant stream of e-mail, then you better exercise your thumbs on the Palm Treo 650. Send e-mail using the tiniest of keyboards from anywhere while keeping your life organized with the Palm OS 5 software. MP3 player, digital video camera, Bluetooth and Web access included. $399 (with a two-year service plan from Verizon Wireless or Cingular). or (888) 223-4817

Even if your cell phone is cool, you may not look cool using it – especially if you’re holding it while driving. You need a Bluetooth wireless headset, like the Plantronics Voyager 510. While true geeks might use it to pick up chicks at Star Trek conventions, you can put it to good use by warding off phone cops in the cities and states that have adopted hands-free cell phone laws.$99 or (800) 544-4660

In bygone days, coal miners learned about the presence of explosive methane by carrying a canary, which would die after breathing the gas. Today’s Canary Wireless product also tips you off to the unseen – in this case, a Wi-Fi signal. The Digital Hotspotter not only tells you if a signal is available, it displays network ID, encryption and channel data information. $59.95

The Panasonic Toughbook-73 can kick computer tush – or at least it can survive being bounced in a big rig or toted around a truck stop better than other laptops. The hardened computer’s full magnesium alloy case (with built-in handle), coffee-resistant keyboard and touchpad, and outdoor-readable touch screen make it indispensable for work in harsh environments. Standard equipment includes a 60-gig hard drive, CD-RW/DVD-ROM combo drive, built-in wireless, 1.8 GHz Intel Pentium M Processor, 256 MB DDR2 RAM, and Windows XP Pro. $3,140 or (800) 662-3537

Frustrated with being where Wi-Fi isn’t? The Verizon Wireless BroadbandAccess Internet plan combined with Kyocera’s KPC 650 PC card, which fits in the phone, can reach speeds of up to 2 Mbps anywhere Verizon Wireless cellular or wireless service is available. That’s faster than DSL and close to what cable operators provide. $69.99 (after $100 rebate, for KPC 650 card) $79.99 (monthly access) or (800) 922-0204

Pioneer’s AVIC-N2 multi-function system features XM NavTraffic, which displays traffic incidents and road flow conditions on a 6.5-inch touch screen monitor. The system even suggests alternate routes around major traffic incidents and heavily congested roads. When you’re done fighting traffic, relax with a DVD on the same screen or listen to XM Satellite Radio. $2,530, $16.94 (monthly subscription to XM Satellite Radio and XM NavTraffic)

You’re proud of those 600 horses under the hood, but people on the other end of your hands-free cell phone conversations are not impressed. The ETY COM features a noise-isolating earphone and directional microphone, making clear conversation possible even with high levels of background noise. $69 or (888) 389-6684

If you’re a gamer, Sony’s PSP – short for PlayStation Portable – is a must-have, with its ergonomic design, shiny black finish and full-motion video capabilities. It even has Wi-Fi network capabilities and USB and memory stick input. The best feature: It will play movies, music videos and even sports programs. $290 (PSP bundle typically includes one game.) or (800) 345-7669

The new Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T5 comes in four colors, but best of all, the half-inch thick camera fits in the change pocket of your jeans. With 5.1 megapixel pictures, you can capture dramatic shots in superb detail. Three-times optical zoom and a 2.5-inch screen are standard.
$349.50 or (877) 865-SONY

Tired of hearing idling trucks, air horn blasts or your partner’s snoring? The Bose QuietComfort 2 Acoustic Noise Canceling headphones will drown out the noise and give you the sound quality for which the company is known. Bose says its proprietary active equalization technology (whatever that is) tunes the headphones and ensures faithful reproduction of music and speech while screening stray sounds. The set might even drown out unwanted knocks at the cab door. $299 or (888) 275-2073

In a perfect world, you’d be home every Sunday to watch your favorite NFL team. But don’t worry – the folks at Sirius have come up with the Sportster Replay, a portable satellite radio receiver that will actually prompt you when your favorite NFL or other sports team is playing. You can also pause, rewind and replay up to 44 minutes of Sirius content. Or tailgate at the truck stop with the compatible Sportster boom box.
$219.97 (with home and car adapter kit)
$142.45 (one-year subscription) or (888) 539-7474

What to do with all your CDs, personal video and digital photos? Store them on Creative Labs Zen Portable Media Center. Take your entire media catalog on the road with you and enjoy it while you rest. The standard version features a 20-gig hard drive with a huge 3.8-inch LCD screen. $499 or (800) 998-1000

If personal computing means more to you than crunching numbers, you’ll fall for the light, trim Powerbook. The 12-inch screen is perfect for smaller confines, and its features – 80-gig hard drive, available CD-RW/DVD-RW Superdrive, loads of RAM – make this notebook a business and entertainment hub. It’s loaded with Apple’s iLife photo, video and audio software, including Garageband, all of which can turn your studio cab into a real studio.
$1,699 or (800) 692-7753

Drown out the light and noise with Brookstone’s Sound Therapy Eye Mask. It not only blocks the light with velour-covered eye cushions, but allows you to plug a portable CD or MP3 player into its built-in headset. Or you can opt for one of five built-in sounds as the Sandman pays a visit. $40 or (800) 846-3000

Don’t settle for a scrawny photo taped to your sleeper wall when you can have 30 photos of your kids, spouse and dog in a never-ending slide show of 5×7-inch images in an 8×10 frame. The CEIVA Digital Photo Receiver allows you to do just that. And, with the right hookups, you can even receive images from around the world or right around the corner. $99 (after rebate)